In the original College library, books were placed on the shelves with the fore-edges facing outwards. This was normal practice in libraries for much of the sixteenth century for two reasons. One is that writing or printing the title and author’s name on the spine was not common until the 17th century and therefore the ‘back’ of the book was purely functional, holding the pages together. The other is that books, like the manuscripts which preceded them, were often held securely by a chain fastened to a metal staple on the fore-edge of the wooden board. (There are a few examples in this blog post of libraries which have retained their books on chains and, of course, there were the magical books in the library at Unseen University in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.) The chain was long enough to reach both the shelf where the book was stored and a sloping lectern* where it could be read. Continue reading
At our incunabula workshop last November we examined a striking two-leaf account in German of St Patrick’s Purgatory (shelfmark: Press B.6.3). As a follow-up to the workshop, and with St Patrick’s Day in mind, we have taken a closer look at this intriguing fragment which relates to what has remained one of the most well-known pilgrimages in Ireland, the pilgrimage to Lough Derg in Donegal.1 Continue reading
Ten months of Arctic winter, ice-bound on the island of Novaya Zemlya (Nova Zemla) “…with the cruell beares, and other monsters of the sea, and the unsupportable and extreme cold that is to be found in those places”. This was the ordeal undergone by the crew of a Dutch expedition which set out on the 10 May, 1596 from the port of Amsterdam to find a passage to Asia by a northern route. Two ships sailed out, one under Jan Cornelisz Rijp, the other under Jacob van Heemskerck with navigator and cartographer Willem Barentsz as expedition leader. Van Heemskerck’s ship became trapped in the ice off the island of Novaya Zemlya, when Rijp had already turned back, and the crew of seventeen were forced to overwinter on the island. Thanks to the journal of crew member Gerrit de Veer we have a detailed description of the experience, along with a series of contemporary engravings by an anonymous artist. De Veer was an officer on Van Heemskerck’s ship, and he published a rich description of three adventurous voyages (1594, 1595, 1596), to find the Northeast Passage. Continue reading
On Tuesday 12th December 2017 the Department of Early Printed Books & Special Collections had the pleasure of facilitating an afternoon workshop on incunabula led by Dr Falk Eisermann.
Dr Eisermann is head of the Incunabula Division at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin and is considered a world-leading expert in the field. The workshop was arranged by Dr Immo Warntjes, Ussher Assistant Professor in Early Medieval Irish History, and was attended by Trinity postgraduate students and staff.
Exotic shells from the Dutch Colonies inspired many painters during the era of European exploration and discovery. The perfection and beauty of their forms and colours could be seen in shell cabinets and in wonderfully illustrated books on natural history such as those in the Fagel Collection. This library belonged to the Fagel family of the Netherlands and is now part of Research Collections in the Library of Trinity College Dublin. Continue reading
By Sarah Timmins, Preservation Assistant
As Preservation Assistants, we help address some of the challenges and problems affecting the books of the Long Room in the Old Library. The collection of some 220,000 Early Printed Books range from the dawn of the printing press in the 1450s and incunabula, to the end of the Victorian era. A systematic preservation project, beginning in 2004 as ‘Save the Treasures’, is ongoing today. The focus of the project is on the cleaning of the books, and the recording of data for use by the Preservation & Conservation Department. We note key information about each book: where and when it was printed, the materials from which it is made, features of the bindings, and so on. We also carry out a condition report, and note any stabilising treatments we carry out in situ. Continue reading
A new display, ‘Swift350’, has opened in the Long Room of the Old Library to mark the 350th anniversary of the birth of one of Trinity College Dublin’s most famous graduates, Jonathan Swift (1667-1745).
Among the most widely read of all Irish writers, Swift is best known as the author of Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World (1726), now universally known as Gulliver’s Travels. His other works include A Tale of a Tub and The Battle of the Books and as a political pamphleteer, Swift is particularly known for A Proposal for the Universal Use of Irish Manufacture, The Drapier’s Letters and A Modest Proposal. Continue reading
Among the collections in our Library sits a bound volume of tracts (Press B.4.16) by John Milton (1608-1674) with an interesting history. The title-page of the first tract in the volume, ‘Of reformation touching church-discipline in England …’ is complete with a dedication in Milton’s hand to Patrick Young (1584-1652).
The inscription can be reconstructed as –
‘Ad doctissim[um] virum Patri[cium] Junium Joann[es] Miltonius hæc / sua, unum in f[asci]culum conjecta / mittit, paucis h[u]/jusmodi lectori[bus]/ contentus.’/
‘To the most learned man Patrick Young John Milton sends these his things, gathered together in one little volume, satisfying himself with but few readers of this kind.’*
By Jack Quin and Tom Walker
This poster for Thomas Bodkin’s book Hugh Lane and his pictures (1932) is included in the exhibition ‘Writing Art in Ireland, 1890–1930’, currently on display in the Long Room. The advert reproduces William Orpen’s Homage to Manet (1909), a group portrait of the novelist George Moore reading from his pamphlet Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters (1906) to an audience in London made up of the collector Hugh Lane, the painters Philip Wilson Steer, Walter Sickert and Henry Tonks, and D.S. MacColl, the Keeper of the Tate Gallery. Above them hangs Édouard Manet’s painting of another impressionist painter Eva Gonzales. Continue reading